Our Raison d’être
What has brought us together is the shared conviction that key aspects of the government’s statutory Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum are wrong in principle, and that the current government shows no signs of rectifying many of the errors that were enshrined in the EYFS right from its conception, and subsequent implementation in September 2008. Given that repeated representations to ministers about these issues since 2007 have had little if any substantive effect, we have decided to draw upon the wide range of expertise and experience across the early-years sector to draw up, quite independent of the government, our own alternative early-years curriculum. Once our new curriculum – provisionally named the Alternative Foundation Phase (or AFP) – has been finalised, it will be formally published by Hawthorn Press later this year, and circulated throughout the early-years field. Our AFP curriculum will be the distillation of progressive, leading-edge research and experience from across the field, and it will help early years leaders, managers and parents to draw on their own professional and parental judgement as to which of the two curriculum documents, the AFP or the EYFS, provides the more developmentally appropriate framework for young children’s early development and learning.
What has also brought us together is the shared conviction and experience that a kind of paralysing fear currently dominates the early years sector in England. We know of many, many principled practitioners, and even parents, who simply dare not speak out in public about what they know to be problematic about the EYFS, lest it should adversely affect their future career prospects or working lives. We also know of practitioners and academics who strongly support one or several aspects of the EYFS, but who dare not speak out about what they know to be wrong about it, lest their rightly coveted ‘babies’ get thrown out with the rest of the EYFS ‘bathwater’. This does not need to be an either/or situation, however, as our AFC will show once published.
We are also aware of the compliant mentality that a statutorily imposed curriculum inevitably generates in practitioners, and the ‘learned helplessness’ that can so easily flow therefrom – making it exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, for many if not most practitioners to find the courage to speak professional truth to political power. Our alternative curriculum will show practitioners that there is another (and better) way, hopefully helping to empower them to stand up against imposed pedagogical practices that they know in their hearts to be wrong, and which are likely to affect adversely at least some of the children in their charge.
Overlaying all of this are the multiple vested material interests that the EYFS has generated with its associated ‘industry’, and the conservative (small ‘c’) forces that any suggestion of significant change will therefore almost inevitably unleash. We therefore expect ECA to provoke criticism and resistance from a number of self-interested quarters in the sector, often for highly complex and varied reasons; but in the open ‘forum of ideas’ which we wish to help bring about, we ask anyone who is sceptical of our initiative to wait until the Alternative Foundation Phase curriculum is published, and then come to a view.